Susan G. Komen Commends Bill Introduction; Urges Quick Passage
AUGUSTA – Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, applauds Senator Marianne Moore (R-Washington) and Representative Kristi Mathieson (D-Kittery) for working with Komen to introduce legislation that would remove financial barriers to imaging that can rule out breast cancer or confirm the need for a biopsy. In 2023, more than 1,450 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 190 will die of the disease in Maine alone.
“This legislation can make an immediate impact for thousands of people who require diagnostic or supplemental breast imaging yet are unable to afford it and often forego the tests,” said Molly Guthrie, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Susan G. Komen. “Everyone should be able to access the care they need and afford it, especially when it could mean the difference between a person’s life and death.”
LD 1836, introduced by Sen. Moore and Rep. Mathieson, would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging (such as an MRI, ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram) when medically necessary. These exams can be extremely expensive and require people to pay high out-of-pocket costs – all before more expensive treatment even begins.
A Komen-commissioned study found the costs to patients range from $234 for a diagnostic mammogram to more than $1,021 for a breast MRI. The cost of the test prevents individuals in Maine from getting the imaging they require, making it difficult to detect their breast cancer as early as possible.
“We know that early detection of breast cancer saves lives, yet too many Mainers are forced to put off diagnostic imaging due to cost concerns,” said Rep. Mathieson. “Cost should never be a barrier to accessing these critical health care services. I’m proud to sponsor this legislation, which will help those who have breast cancer get diagnosed earlier and increase access to routine follow-up testing for survivors.”
An estimated 16 percent of people who receive annual screening mammograms nationwide get called back for diagnostic imaging. Additionally, these tests are often recommended for those who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer and for some individuals who are considered at high-risk for breast cancer, making their out-of-pocket costs particularly burdensome to those individuals.
“The earlier we can identify and diagnose breast cancer; the more treatment options we can provide patients; the more lives we can save,” said Sen. Moore. “I am proud to sponsor this bill that will eliminate the patient cost-sharing for medically necessary imaging and reduce cost barriers for all Mainers in need of a timely diagnosis or breast cancer survivors who are in need of a follow-up imaging.”
The use of breast cancer screening and follow-up diagnostics have led to significant increases in the early detection of breast cancer in the past 30 years. However, this is not true across all demographics. Evidence shows that Black and Hispanic breast cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at a later stage, perhaps due to delays in follow-up imaging after abnormal findings on an annual mammogram.
More diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging is likely going to be needed due to “missed” breast cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts warn that missed mammograms could lead to more later-stage breast cancer diagnoses, once detected, so it is critically important that we increase access to affordable tests to those who medically require it.